As the SEC’s iXBRL mandate starts to take effect, we take a look at what changes this mandate brings to a company’s SEC filings; and what opportunities it creates for a company to gain even better control over its XBRL reporting processes.

The SEC iXBRL Mandate

The SEC’s XBRL mandate is a decade old now.  Just as CFOs and company compliance teams have become comfortable with their XBRL process, the SEC has moved the ball forward by mandating a shift from XBRL to iXBRL.  This shift is being phased in now, over three years, starting with large accelerated filers.  (All issuers may voluntarily file in iXBRL format ahead of their required phase-in date.)

Phase-In Timeline


What is iXBRL?

Let’s start with a quick review of what XBRL is.  XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) is a freely available, open source, global technology standard for exchanging business information digitally. This standard, which has been adopted by over a hundred financial regulators around the world, makes data machine readable, increases data accuracy, and facilitates easy comparisons and analysis.

However, XBRL has one drawback. It can be interpreted only by machines. An XBRL instance document is composed of XML files that require a rendering engine or an XBRL viewer to present the data in a human-readable format.

Enter Inline XBRL

The inline XBRL (iXBRL) specification was developed as an “upgrade” to the XBRL specification, to make documents readable for both humans and machines.  iXBRL, also called xHTML, is a format that has XBRL data embedded in a well-formatted HTML document. The basic idea of developing iXBRL is to allow companies and preparers of financial reports to retain the original view or formatting of the source document while including XBRL tags in the document that machines can extract and read. The xHTML representation of the information is what aids the document to be human-readable.  Users who view a company’s 10-Q or 10-K filing online will also see the XBRL financial data.

How will filing in iXBRL format affect your process?

One document instead of two

The biggest change that iXBRL format brings – a change that affects companies, investors, analysts, and regulators – is that instead of having to prepare and file two documents, the EDGAR HTML document and the XBRL document, companies will only have to file one document, the EDGAR HTML file with embedded XBRL.

For companies, the move to iXBRL format is a move away from a dual reporting format of EDGAR HTML (human-readable) and XBRL (machine-readable) to a single structured format (iXBRL) that is both human and machine-readable.  No longer will the XBRL file be prepared separately and attached as an exhibit.  No longer will companies have to reconcile the HTML document and the XBRL document.

The benefits are immediately visible in terms of a more streamlined and quicker document preparation process, especially given the iterative nature of the overall report preparation process, where edits and updates are very frequent. Moving to iXBRL means you are making all edits and iterations in only one document (iXBRL), and not two (EDGAR HTML, and XBRL).

With iXBRL, the review is simple and intuitive, since tagging is within the document CFOs are most familiar with – their 10-Ks and 10-Qs. CFOs can easily read and also view the tags in the setting and context of the document itself, using any inline XBRL reader. This beats the process of XBRL review by a wide margin, where companies use either excel outputs or XBRL readers to review their XBRL tags, which appear confusing and complex when placed outside the context of the company’s financial report.

Emphasis on data quality

The SEC hopes that by requiring registrants to file only one report instead of submitting (and reconciling) two separate documents, fewer errors will result. In addition, the staff hopes that with iXBRL, there will be fewer errors such as characterizing a number as negative when it is positive, incorrect scaling, and incomplete tagging.

iXBRL is likely to lead to increased use of XBRL data in the marketplace because it allows users to search and analyze data more quickly.  The iXBRL viewer makes data tagging details, including tagging deficiencies, more visible and transparent.  In short, the quality of a company’s XBRL data will be clearer to investors, analysts, and regulators; thus, it would be a good idea for companies to reassess their XBRL data quality, including its completeness and accuracy, as part of their transition to iXBRL.

Elimination of Web Posting Requirement

The SEC’s iXBRL rule eliminates the requirement for a company to post its interactive data (XBRL) files on its website.

Conclusion: This blog provides you with a quick overview of what the ‘i’ in iXBRL means for your SEC filing process. For a deeper dive (which still won’t get you in technicalities), download our free eBook “Complete Guide To A Smooth iXBRL Transition

IRIS is the most trusted name in XBRL implementation and reporting, and since 2005 has provided solutions for more than 26 regulators and 1.5 million filers across the globe.  Preparation of Inline XBRL documents is easy with IRIS CARBON®, our cloud-based, collaborative, single-source disclosure management solution.  For more information, or to schedule a consultation, send us an email at

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